Noblesville High School junior Ashlynn Shade was terrific as always.
However, Millers coach Donna Buckley said the supporting cast was crucial to the team’s successful run to a state title.
Ashlynn Shade, a five-star recruit who has committed to the University of Connecticut, tied a Class 4A state record with 31 points to lead the No. 5 Millers past No. 2 Franklin Community High School 76-52 Feb. 26 in the Class 4A girls basketball state championship game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Shade started 1 of 5 from the field but sank 12 of her final 17 shots. She also had seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“There are not many players in the country that are better than her,” Buckley said. “There is a lot of talent besides her. Having some of the other kids go with her has been the difference.”
Sophomores Reagan Wilson and Ava Shoemaker scored 12 points each in the final. Dani Mendez had nine points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Franklin was dominating in its last four postseason games.
“Reagan, our point guard, was awesome and unbelievable in every way,” Buckley said. “Kaitlyn and Ava Shoemaker played fantastic and had big games for us. Dani Mendez and Brooklyn Smitherman were awesome in the paint for us.”
Wilson averaged 10 points per game. Freshman Meredith Tippner and Kaitlyn Shoemaker averaged more than nine points per game.
The Millers (25-4) beat No. 7 Fishers 54-48 for the sectional title. In the regional, Noblesville downed No. 1 Homestead 61-40 in the semifinals and No. 10 Fort Wayne Snider 78-63 in the title game. In the semistate, the Millers beat No. 4 defending state champion Crown Point 62-41.
“Our sectional is so hard, if you get out of that you have a chance to do some things,” Buckley said. “We played really well on both ends of the floor and everything came together for us. When this group is playing well on both ends, they are pretty darn good. We had so many different kids contribute, it made us hard (to defend) on the offensive end.”
The turning point for the Millers was after a 44-33 loss to Zionsville on Jan. 11. From there, they won their last 10 games, including a 62-46 victory over Zionsville in the sectional opener at Westfield.
“We took a look at ourselves and figured out we had to do things a little different,” Buckley said. “From that moment on, we were a very different basketball team.”
The scary thing for opponents moving forward is, the Millers have no seniors.
“We’re really experienced. Those juniors have played varsity since they were freshmen,” Buckley said.
The state title was the second for the Millers. They won their first in 1987 in the single-class tournament. They state runners-up in 1988 and reached the state semifinals in 1989 and 1990.
Buckley said the community support was amazing with a large contingent at the state title game.
“I’m happy for the community and happy to bring a state championship back to Noblesville and represent those amazing teams that the community had in the 1980s and early ’90s,” Buckley said.